In 1 Thessalonians, Paul is talking to the church at Thessalonica, and he is trying to instruct them, trying to give them excellent stability, trying to put a backbone in the church. He begins to minister, speak to people, and do work in the church.
“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB
Let’s look together at our prayer life. We have so many Christians whose prayer life is entirely ineffective. So many people pray, and it is ritualistic. I know people who are not even Christians who do devotions. I know people that are Christians who say their prayers hit the ceiling and come back. I had someone recently talk to me about their sinful past, saying they didn’t feel useful, God didn’t hear them, and it felt like God ignored them, so they sinned, knowing it was wrong, but since God and everyone else ignored them, oh well, they just sinned. Part of the problem is the church isn’t teaching people how to have an effective prayer life. Do you see in the verses above, it starts with your attitude? It says before you pray, start rejoicing, then pray without ceasing, then give thanks! Rejoice, pray, give thanks.
If you notice, rejoicing, prayer, and giving thanks are inseparable. God links them together like peanut butter and jelly. These verses are inseparably linked. You’ve got thanksgiving, a rejoicing heart, and prayer. What happens is we have a lot of people praying because it is an obligation, and people who just pray before every meal. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is a ritual. The point of the matter is you’ve got to have rejoicing and thankfulness intermingled with your prayer for it to be effective.
“It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.’ And He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’” Luke:1-4 NASB
His disciples are asking Him to teach them how to pray. They were hungry for God’s learning. Churches are not teaching people how to pray the prayer of faith, the prayer of agreement, or the power of individual and corporate prayer. In the church, prayer has become a ritualistic habit. There is very little power in our prayer life because we don’t make it into anything; we are not effective prayers.
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.” Luke 9:9-10 NASB
Jesus just made a point here; He is saying when you pray, stuff is going to happen. Look at verse 11; it says, everyone. If you can put steam on a mirror, then you are an everyone. That means if you are an everyone, God wants you to have an effective prayer life; He wants you to have success, God wants to see you ask, and see your prayers get answered. Now look at verses 11-13,
“Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:11-13 NASB
How much more? In the church, we are not giving enough emphasis or teaching people enough about ‘how much more?’ God’s intention for your life is ‘how much more?’ If you are a parent, think about the kind of marriage you want your son or daughter to have. Now think about how God looks at that marriage and says, I want them to have much more.
I was eating fajitas with a man recently; he was a seasoned veteran, a great guy. I said to him, can I ask you a question before we get started, would you agree with me that God’s Word is 100% true, it is the basis for everything that we do and anything that disagrees with it is wrong, not God’s Word? The reason I started the conversation this way is that you cannot discuss with someone about Biblical things if that is not the basis. You can share the gospel with people who don’t know it, but I want to make this very clear, do not get into spiritual discussions with people who claim to be believers if you cannot agree that God’s Word is the basis. Don’t waste your time; don’t argue, and don’t try to convince those people of anything. When you enter any discussion, with anyone who claims to be a believer, ask if you can start the plumb line with this; “would you agree with me that God’s Word is 100% truthful and anything that disagrees with God’s Word must be wrong.” If they say yes, then you’ve got them, because for the rest of your relationship, anytime you get on a subject and they say ‘I don’t believe that,’ you can say wait, are you changing your opinion of what you told me before? Then they have to admit they are changing. If you ask someone why they know something and they say they heard it at church, you can say, that is great, but how do you know it? Once you establish that, you can come back to ‘how much more?’
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” Matthew 6:7 NASB
Are your prayers the same time and time again? If I listened to you pray over dinner every night, is it going to be the same prayer? If it is, it is a vain repetition. Parents, when you pray with your children at night, don’t pray the same prayer, don’t get into a rut of saying the same thing over and over. Your prayer life should be exhausted; it should be effective. You can be driving down the road and have a conversation with the Holy Ghost, and guess what? That’s prayer! Religion will say, you aren’t on your knees, your hands aren’t folded, and your head isn’t bowed. That is not the praying position; it is the religious perspective. There is nothing wrong with praying that way, I have and do, but the Bible does not tell us anywhere that you have to be in a certain position or place to pray. I love to drive down the road and talk to the Lord. I love to lay in bed and talk to the Lord. I love to sit at my desk with all my Bibles open and talk to the Lord. That is why when we pray, we don’t always pray the Lord’s prayer.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8 NASB
Religious tradition keeps people in captivity, in hostage. How many women are hostage because they are told their hair is to short or they cannot have on makeup? Or how many people believe it is wrong to have a tv? The church needs to stop telling people that certain things are Godly, and certain things are not. Why is the church trying to be religious about everything?